IAN DE COTTA It’s a weekday in early autumn and the mediaeval fishing hamlet on the southern shore of Monte Isola is tranquil. Only 12.8 sq km, the island is the primary attraction of Lake Iseo, Italy’s hidden jewel that is 100km north-east of Milan.
Most of the villages in Monte Isola, which is largely a wooded mountain, and those around the lake, have been around since the 15th century at least. Yet, despite the beauty on offer, the picturesque towns largely escape the radar of the hordes of tourists that invade Italy every year.
But the charming lake is not all absent from the mind of the world, at least for boat aficionados. Amid the serenity, a legend, the Riva, was born 175 years ago. It lives on today at the tail end of the lake at Sarnico. The story goes that in 1842, a storm damaged the local fishermen’s boats, and their livelihoods along with it. The situation spurred Pietro Riva, a young shipbuilder and craftsman who had just moved from Laglio, to repair most of the vessels.
He went on to build his own boats. Business flourished and in the 1950s, it reached mythical heights under his greatgrandson, Carlo. It was Riva’s second coming.